The NBA and NBA Players Association came to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement that will extend from the 2023-2024 season until at least the 2029-2030 season. That means there will be no stoppages in play for labor disputes for the rest of the 2020s, a major win for the owners, players and fans of the league.
With the new CBA comes a host of new rules that are aimed at competitive balancing, addressing issues such as load management, and giving more opportunities to players both on the court and financially. With these rules kicking in next season, the way the NBA looks could change very quickly. Teams will need to adapt to the new changes as they look to build their rosters for the ‘23/’24 season.
San Antonio has a big offseason ahead of them, as it is the first since they decided to trade their young star Dejounte Murray, and dive head first into a rebuild. The NBA Draft will likely be the main storyline, but they will also have some decisions to make in free agency, and potentially the chance to alter the roster via trade. The new CBA agreement will have a significant impact on how they are able to assemble their team, and how they utilize it next season.
If you’d like a Spurs context-free read on the agreement, and all of its nuts and bolts, I would suggest checking out Jesus Gomez’s piece here. The following are the main ways that the new rules will impact the Spurs.
San Antonio will have one more roster spot
Starting next season, NBA teams will be allowed one more two-way contract type. Players on a two-way deal share time with a team’s G-League affiliate and the NBA squad. They are allowed to be on the active NBA roster for 50 games, and make between $81,000 to $450,000. The Spurs current two-way players are Dominick Barlow and Julian Champagnie.
As they continue the rebuild, these two-way spots will be important. It’s a way to find diamonds in the rough, without giving up a roster spot to do so. If those players perform, they can be easily signed to a guaranteed NBA deal, like the one Charles Bassey signed earlier this season. Some successful two-way guys who have become established NBA role players include Alex Caruso, Duncan Robinson, Chris Boucher and Spurs fans’ favorite free agency target, Naz Reid.
With a new class of rookies coming in, the Spurs will have some tough decisions to make on their roster. It’s highly unlikely they will be able to bring back all of the younger experiments on the roster like Barlow, Champagnie and Sandro Mamukelashvili. With an extra two-way, they may be able to convince some of these guys trying to prove themselves to take that spot, and earn a full contract with strong play. It also gives them an opportunity to take a flyer on an undrafted rookie they might like, or another young player outside of their organization that they have their sights set on.
The new salary and tax rules will benefit the Spurs
One of the more controversial elements on the new CBA is the second luxury tax apron, that will penalize teams who go over the tax line by $17.5 million. Teams that exceed the limit will not be able to sign a player to their taxpayer mid-level exception. For example, the Golden State Warriors would not have been able to sign Donte DiVincenzo last offseason if this rule had been in place. Other penalties include restrictions on sending cash in trade deals, signing players on the buyout market and trading first round picks that are more than 7 years away.
In a clear attempt to competitively balance the league, other stipulations have been put into place for teams with middling to lower payrolls. Those include larger trade exceptions that can be used as salary filler in deals, and undisclosed expanded exceptions to the salary cap. These are certainly the most murky details of the new CBA thus far, as it’s not clear what exceptions will be made for smaller market teams like San Antonio. Exactly how much larger the trade exceptions are will also matter. Seemingly, these will benefit the Spurs as they continue to build the roster.
Especially when it comes to retaining their young players. Signing a 26-year-old guard like DiVincenzo after winning the championship is the type of deal that benefits the contenders like Golden State, but hurts smaller market teams trying to keep their rosters together. Let’s say the Spurs have a second round pick who overachieved hitting unrestricted free agency. They may be looking to bolt to a contender, and willing to take the MLE on a tax apron team to win the championship. Now San Antonio could level a competitive offer without breaking the bank to retain said player. It’s not incredibly relevant this offseason (Tre Jones is in a similar position, but is a restricted free agency, so this doesn’t apply,) but something that could work in the Spurs' favor as the rebuild continues.
Tanking, in its current form, may be harder
The League has taken measures over the years to eliminate the tactic that bottom-feeding teams have been implementing for a few decades. Evening the draft lottery odds hasn’t necessarily deterred teams from continuing to lose games purposefully, but it has made tanking less effective, as you may be more likely to get the 6th pick than the 1st with a bottom-three record. So far their restrictions on tanking have been targeted at front offices, but the new CBA has rules that will affect the players.
The big one is that players must appear in 65 games to qualify for postseason awards. As Spurs fans know, this season has been an exercise in flexibility for the team. The injury report looks different from night to night, with it mostly being longer than fans would like to see. With just 5 games to go, only five players on the roster can qualify for the 65 game milestone: Keldon Johnson, Malaki Branham, Doug McDermott, Keita Bates-Diop and Tre Jones. So Jeremy Sochan could not be considered for all-rookie honors under the new rule.
These awards aren’t just a trophy for the players, they come with financial incentives as well. Are players going to be willing to sit out games out and potentially lose money to increase lottery odds? ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that there will be certain exceptions for injuries, meaning there may be some subjectivity from the league that will likely muddle this rule.
Speaking of messing with player’s money... the in-season tournament will be the biggest change coming in the new CBA. We don’t yet know full details for the tournament, but we do know that pool play will be baked into the regular season schedule, with the eight qualifiers moving onto the tournament. The prize will be extra money for the players and coaches who win the tournament. Again, good luck telling players they will be sitting out of games with financial implications just to rest, or help the team tank. The Spurs may not have the talent to win the NBA championship yet, but they could get hot for the mid-season tournament and give themselves a chance to play for something while benefitting financially.
The Spurs will have a lot of big decisions to make while moving forward in the rebuild, and the new CBA may alter those plans slightly. The net-net for fans is this: the league wants everyone to be competitive, and their best players to play. Coming off of a loss-heavy season, there is a chance the rules help San Antonio win a bit more next season.